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Quick Reaction

Quick Reaction: Raptors 101, Trail Blazers 106

The usual reminder: All grades are based on the player and their expected role, not a generic player in a vacuum. An A for Lowry/DeRozan is not the same as an A for a guy fighting for a camp spot. It’s all relative, and the preseason grades don’t necessarily account for the quality of competition end-of-the-bench guys are facing. It’s also preseason, and so some of us may be looking for/noticing particular (and different) things. It’s grain-of-salt season. (Can you tell I don’t love doing the Quick Reaction in the preseason?)

Toronto 101 Final
Box Score
106 Portland

D
S. Ibaka20 MIN, 2 PTS, 4 REB, 0 AST, 0 STL, 1-5 FG, 0-3 3FG, 0-0 FT, 1 BLK, 2 TO, -15 +/-

At some point, Ibaka’s slow, mechanical movements at both ends will become worrisome. I don’t think we’re there yet, but this has been a pretty uninspiring training camp for him outside of a very fancy spinning fadeaway on the short roll tonight. I’m not sure if it’s conservation or easing in or what. It’d be nice to see Ibaka have a strong outing in one of the next two games. Maybe a full contingent of starters will help?

C-
B. Caboclo18 MIN, 0 PTS, 2 REB, 0 AST, 1 STL, 0-4 FG, 0-3 3FG, 0-0 FT, 1 BLK, 0 TO, -9 +/-

I wish I had more positives to say. I’m still able to maintain patience, and the context of the entire Caboclo situation is always important to keep in mind. This is three pretty rough preseason games in a row now, though, despite some active hands and a good defensive symbiosis with Siakam. It looked like maybe it’s wearing on him a bit, too. This was at least better than the last. Patience, if you have it, because you can still see signs.

A-
J. Valanciunas17 MIN, 8 PTS, 7 REB, 0 AST, 0 STL, 3-5 FG, 0-0 3FG, 2-2 FT, 1 BLK, 1 TO, -14 +/-

Once again looked spry and encouraging on the defensive end, and while he didn’t touch the ball a ton, he made the most of the opportunities. Small samples and all, but he’s been helping better at the rim and looking a little quicker, and the earlier games showed he seemed to be embracing and enjoying some of the offensive tweaks. Solid work through three games.

A
K. Lowry25 MIN, 23 PTS, 3 REB, 6 AST, 1 STL, 5-11 FG, 2-7 3FG, 11-14 FT, 0 BLK, 5 TO, -5 +/-

This man is out here taking charges from 7-footers down double-digits in a preseason game. I love it, but If he could maybe ease off the gas a bit in meaningless games, my cortisol levels would appreciate it. Anyway, he was awesome and is regular season ready, other than an uncharacteristic number of turnovers, which is something that’s plagued the whole team in camp.

B
N. Powell25 MIN, 15 PTS, 1 REB, 2 AST, 1 STL, 4-14 FG, 3-4 3FG, 4-5 FT, 0 BLK, 0 TO, -22 +/-

Drawing the start in DeRozan’s place meant Powell wasn’t going to face the limited touches he would normally, and the Raptors leaned on him heavily early on. He was at anything but his best, using 16 possessions to score 15 points, but he also showed a lot of what makes Powell so exciting – hard drives in the pick-and-roll, a bit of shooting, attempts to dunk on 7-footers (heavy pockets weighing him down now). He lost Anthony Morrow a bit in transition, though I’ll need to do my re-watch to see if it was a cross-matching issue or a team-wide breakdown or what have you.

A
A. McKinnie24 MIN, 13 PTS, 8 REB, 0 AST, 4 STL, 5-7 FG, 3-5 3FG, 0-0 FT, 0 BLK, 1 TO, 12 +/-

Not to overreact to a single preseason game, but McKinnie looks like a pretty clear favorite to win one of the final two roster spots (I had given him the best odds before camp began). Not only did he have his customary putback dunk and show some really nice effort on defense and with loose balls, but he also hit three threes, which is huge for his candidacy. The excitement I’ve seen about McKinnie’s game tonight is warranted – this is who he is, and even if he’s only a modest 3-point shooter, it’s a fun bench piece.

D+
A. Rautins24 MIN, 0 PTS, 2 REB, 4 AST, 1 STL, 0-5 FG, 0-5 3FG, 0-0 FT, 0 BLK, 3 TO, 17 +/-

Tough night for the Canadian, who didn’t bring the sharpshooting that got him the camp invite. An empty night from long range is going to happen sometimes, but Rautins isn’t a particularly stout on-ball defender, and short of a handful of pretty solid passes in the first half, his plus-17 rating is a bit misleading. He does provide some gravity, though, because he’ll let it fly.

B+
D. Wright23 MIN, 11 PTS, 3 REB, 3 AST, 0 STL, 2-7 FG, 0-5 3FG, 7-7 FT, 0 BLK, 1 TO, 0 +/-

He still needs to be more assertive shooting, either when spotting/pulling up or as a driver, because defenses are sagging back and it makes it more difficult for him to really cause havoc in the teeth. Still, he’s poised and savvy, makes some smart reads that put teammates in good positions, and is impossible in transition. Had a bit of a tough time with C.J. McCollum late.

A
J. Poeltl17 MIN, 10 PTS, 4 REB, 0 AST, 1 STL, 4-4 FG, 0-0 3FG, 2-3 FT, 0 BLK, 1 TO, 14 +/-

Some really terrific effort down the stretch, even with the competition caveats (Poeltl and Nogueira have both looked better as the third center than the second). He had a smart cut to the rim, showed nice touch on a transition bucket-and-foul, and made something out of nothing attacking the lane late in a shot clock.

B+
P. Siakam16 MIN, 5 PTS, 0 REB, 2 AST, 0 STL, 2-3 FG, 1-2 3FG, 0-0 FT, 0 BLK, 2 TO, -1 +/-

Continues to look good in what will likely be his role in the regular season. Hit a corner three, which is important for the potential frontcourt pairings he can be a part of, showed a nice, if somewhat overeager, first step, and once again showed he can be trusted to switch plenty on the perimeter and use his length to corral and recover.

C
L. Nogueira14 MIN, 0 PTS, 3 REB, 0 AST, 0 STL, 0-0 FG, 0-0 3FG, 0-0 FT, 2 BLK, 1 TO, -5 +/-

Tough one for Bebe, who did a few small things well – some really stout drag screens, scattering back to bigs on short-rolls after hedging, protecting the rim – but seemed to be getting an earful from Casey at every turn, including on a back cut and fouling on a three. Neither center has run with this spot yet, and it could be fluid entering the year.

A-
K. Wiltjer12 MIN, 12 PTS, 1 REB, 1 AST, 1 STL, 4-8 FG, 4-8 3FG, 0-0 FT, 0 BLK, 0 TO, 11 +/-

They don’t call him Kyle Wontjer. Wiltjer came in and was basically a human heat check for his 12 minutes, firing up eight triples. Hitting four of them was a big part of the Raptors’ late push, and he developed a nice pick-and-pop chemistry with Wright, thanks in part to his gravitational pull.

C
L. Brown4 MIN, 2 PTS, 0 REB, 0 AST, 0 STL, 0-2 FG, 0-2 3FG, 2-2 FT, 0 BLK, 1 TO, -8 +/-

Plays with great speed and a high motor, though Casey surely cringed at one gamble that left Lillard with a wide-open three. He missed a couple of good looks and never really got another chance. Four minutes has to be disappointing for him on a night VanVleet sat.

Inc
Dwane Casey

I’m not really much for judging a coach based on preseason rotations and sit/start calls. The offense remains a work in progress and the assist total was a little low again (thanks in large part to 30% 3-point shooting Casey can’t control). Feel it’s better to judge Casey at the end of camp, by how the offense has come along and whether the team’s stuck to the changes.

Things We Saw

  1. While it’d be nice to get the starters together for chemistry building purposes, it makes sense to sit the big names out for a game here and there. Yes, preseason is only five games over more than two weeks, but they need to get a longer look at some of the younger players, too, and there’s plenty of practice time to try to hammer home the new offensive principles. I’d expect Ibaka to sit one of the next two games and then the finale to be treated as a one-half dress rehearsal of sorts.
  2. Miles getting the unannounced night off was a little less expected, and the dual wings sitting, while totally justified from a freshness and get-the-young-guys-reps perspective, confuses whether Powell was just filling in as a starter or whether he’s still fighting for that job (we still haven’t seen Miles in the Terrence Ross bench role, where the playbook is already set for him). Fred VanVleet also sat. Some Wright-VanVleet looks with the team light on wings would have been cool, but you can’t do all things in every game. Shout out to the end-of-bench mob making a strong comeback late.
  3. Portland’s offense is a great example for Toronto to try to emulate as they build more motion and ball movement into their system. Terry Stotts’ flow is all about motion with purpose, and rarely does anyone catch the ball flat-footed. That all takes a lot of time and repetitions to build, and the Raptors will have to be patient and avoid the urge to fall back on what’s worked in the past. There are going to be growing pains, because even some of the early motion stuff they’re introducing (re-watch the first quarters of Game 1 and Game 3 for a better idea) take a lot of timing and precision to be effective.
  4. The Raptors had almost nothing in the first half that wasn’t Lowry or Powell. The defense is a more pressing takeaway from the preseason so far, and there are offensive caveats – the system tweaks, some (hopefully) unseasonably cold shooting games, it being the preseason – but this team could struggle to score if one of Lowry or DeRozan missed time. (Which is also a good argument in favor of continuing the offensive change efforts, to attempt to limit that downside risk.) At the same time, the last two games had two of the team’s top-six players sitting, so maybe it’s all just noise.
  5. Jusuf Nurkic has lost 35 pounds and said on the broadcast that the hardest part so far is that he’s “too quick.” We should all aspire to make that kind of change, and we should all be so lucky as to have those kind of hardships. His mid-range stroke looks solid, too, and he’s in for a big year volume-wise. Caleb Swanigan is really nice, as well.
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